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Sebastopol Home Ownership: a Bedrock of the American Dream

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

You’d think that the whole notion of the American Dream is vague enough that it would be immune from challenge, and for the most part, that’s still true enough. Not so for its principal emblem, which most Sebastopol residents would agree is owning your own home. Being free to work hard to reach that goal—no matter who you are or how humble your origins—has long been the leading sign that the Dream is alive and kicking.

Even so, lately it’s been getting hard to ignore some media discussions that seem to challenge homeownership’s legitimacy as a pillar of that whole American Dream notion. Simply put, the suggestion is that the financial benefits to be had from owning your own home are no longer valid—or at least, that they are growing less valid. 

There’s no arguing that there are many situations where renting makes more financial sense than does buying. Most of them are related to the expected duration of residence. As The New York Times observes, “Buying tends to be better the longer you stay” if only because the upfront costs are spread out over many years. In one of its Upshot commentaries, the Times presents a calculator which adds up “Initial,” “Recurring,” and “Opportunity Costs” for various rent and buy situations in order to show at what monthly rental dollar amount “renting is better.” 

Sorry, Times. Your calculator may accurately display the tradeoffs in dollar costs—but it overlooks one factor that can ultimately prove to be the most significant. It’s the real-life factor that is built in whenever Sebastopol families decide to graduate from renting to buying. It begins to take form with the first dollar saved for a down payment and continues until the last mortgage check clears the bank. 

You can call it “enforced savings”—but whatever its name, in addition to the emotional benefits of owning your home, a measurable infusion of financial independence is the usual outcome. For example, when the Federal Reserve last reported “Changes in U.S. Family Finances” during the years from 2010-2013, it found that although median incomes fell 5%, “the median net worth of homeowners increased 4%, whereas that of renters or other non-homeowners did not change.

If the American Dream is one of self-reliance and independence, then owning your Sebastopol home isn’t likely to disappear as its leading goal anytime soon. It’s one of the greatest parts of our job to help clients turn that distant dream into today’s reality. It’s a process that starts with a simple call to our office!

Buying a Home in Sebastopol before 2017 Ends

by Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner

 

To end the suspense, the answer to the title question about when is the optimal time to buy a home in Sebastopol has been officially answered. The answer is, more or less, “now.” All right, there’s an alternate answer, “as soon as practical”—but that is a less dramatic-sounding version of the same thing. 

The official nature of that answer is due to its source, generally considered to be the apex of the residential real estate industry: the National Association of Realtors®. The “®” is there after “Realtor” because the group literally owns the word “Realtor”—that’s how much of an industry leader the NAR is!

We are members because of all the resources it makes available for the benefit of our Sebastopol clients. Among the raft of those is a steady stream of research about the market, new and proposed California and national legislation, and a wide range of new information about selling and buying a home. 

Since its pronouncements need to accurately reflect conditions throughout the country—informing more than a million brokers and agents—its words are (as you’d expect) carefully weighed. Which brings us around to the single best time for buying a home, which the Association shared on January 23: “before 2017 ends.”

Three “crucial” reasons were presented in Lisa Gordon’s presentation, each of which is hard to argue with:

  • Tick! tick! Mortgage rates are rising. No one can be 100% certain of future offerings by Sebastopol’s home lenders, yet there has seldom been such unanimity in signals that the future points upward. That means that who lock in rates early should see meaningful savings when it comes to buying a home. To drive the point home, the article harkened back to 1981 and the 18% mortgages buyers had to face. Today it hovers above 4%.

  • Tick! tick! tick! Fewer homes on the market. This national trend has consistently moved in the same direction. By November, the number of homes on the market had fallen by nearly 10% from the previous year: a precipitous drop. The Sebastopol listings aren’t always in lockstep with national trends, but the potential for even stiffer competition between buyers when spring and summer activity peaks is quite real.

  • Tick! tick! tick! tick! Prices are still rising. “We have yet to see a price ceiling,” is what one agent says—and the sales figures bear him out. After the 5% rise in 2016, even pessimistic projections anticipate higher prices. 

For sure, neither the NAR nor we are neutral observers when it comes to selling and buying homes—so the hurry-up reasoning might warrant a degree of skepticism. But the changes in Washington have added a new factor barely touched on in the NAR piece: uncertainty. If you are among those planning on buying a home in Sebastopol at some time in the future, that might be the most convincing argument of all. The current listings and Sebastopol’s real estate environment are knowns—and they are, by historic standard, pretty terrific. You’ll be able to confirm that yourself when you give us a call!

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Randy Mack and Heidi Faulkner
Artisan Sotheby's International Realty
7775 Healdsburg Ave.
Sebastopol CA 95472
(707) 696-6272
(707) 480-4098
Fax: (707) 824-0587